At Pacific Traders & Manufacturing Corp. in Cebu, Phillipines, some of the 1,500 workers put together the bits and pieces of furniture at the lamination station.
Pacific Traders Pleased With Imported American Hardwoods
By Lucas Ngu
Cebu, Phillipines—In the city of Cebu, one furniture manufacturer stands out among the rest not only for its size, but also the vast array of furniture items that it has to offer. Through a clever mix of raw materials, Pacific Traders & Manufacturing Corp. has been able to set up the first one-stop furniture center in town.
At Pacific Traders, it’s not just the numbers that matter. Motivation and innovation are elements that have also enabled the company to carve a niche for itself in the world of wood, particularly in the export market.
And the people behind the company’s success are no other than the founders: Hugo and Gorgonia M Streegan, who are determined to produce something special for their customers. For its commitment to excellence and outstanding performance in the export sector, the company received the prestigious Golden Shell Award in 1985 while Streegan has earned a reputation for himself as the ‘Export Champion of the South.’
Various imported woods, mainly from the U.S., are used in the manufacture of the company’s products.
Like many other success stories, Pacific Traders has a humble beginning that dates back to 1973 when the company was involved in the export of rattan poles. Three years later, the company’s owners decided to venture into the manufacture of rattan furniture. It was in the mid-1980s that a new and larger plant was established. Today, the 11,000 square foot factory employs 1,500 workers for its six-day operation each week.
According to Loma M. Manalili, the firm’s marketing director, the mill is capable of churning out 50 to 60 containers of wooden furniture and some 20 containers of rattan furniture each month. But the combined output could reach 100 containers during the peak period and the items are produced entirely for the export markets in the U.S. (80 percent), the Middle East, Europe and Asia.
“We make primarily home furniture and sell them to manufacturers and retailers like Ethan Allen, Henredon Direct, Century, and McGuire Furniture Co in the United States,” Manalili told Wood Purchasing News.
“We also make high-end products which are delivered to hotels, restaurants, and resorts,” she added.
A Pacific Traders worker shapes wood parts using a CNC router.
As far as raw materials are concerned, Manalili disclosed that the company imports Oak, Beech, Walnut, Maple and Alder from the United States. Local material include: Gmelina, Laluan, Rubberwood, and crushed Bamboo while Radiata Pine is sourced from New Zealand.
Imported wood, mainly from the U.S., accounts for 60 percent of raw materials used for furniture production and the consumption level stands at 60 containers a year.
“As far as the quality of wood is concerned, we insist on No. 1 Common and cabinet grades. The sawn lumber comes in thicknesses of 2-inches with widths measuring two feet and up while each piece is 7 feet in length or more,” she said.
Manalili further testified that the company was happy with the kind of American timber that arrives at the doorsteps of the factory. “So far, the supply has been consistent and we are constantly in touch with suppliers who are only a phone call away.”
The finishing station within Pacific Traders is part of the 11,000 square foot factory that employs 1,500 workers.
Like other importers, the decision to use American timber is customer-dictated as furniture buyers, particularly in the U.S., are so accustomed to the looks of home grown timber.
So far, the company has not encountered major problems with the processing of American timber. At times, there are minor glitches that involve the size of the wood, but Manalili was quick to point out that it was nothing serious.
Apart from the U.S., the company also imports wood panels like MDF, particleboard and plywood from Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand.
In addition to the staple list of woodworking machinery, the mill is also equipped with kiln-drying facilities, one of which is capable of handling 60,000 board feet while two others are built to handle 100,000 board feet each. These facilities are used to re-dry wood that is imported from the U.S. in order to bring the moisture down from 10 percent to 8 percent.
The firm has been assembling furniture for 24 years for such companies as Ethan Allen, Henredon Direct, Century and McGuire.
In recent years, the range of furniture items produced by Pacific Traders has evolved from traditional English reproductions to more contemporary pieces. Not unlike most furniture mills in the Philippines, the furniture items comprise a mixed media or a mixture of raw materials. Company officials take pride in being a local company that is capable of producing such a vast array of products, particularly for the higher end of the market.
Niche marketing is also something that makes Pacific Traders special. As Manalili explained, “We cannot compete with China, Malaysia and Vietnam for the kind of furniture that they produce.”
She added: “We are strong in case goods but we want to expand into chairs – to have a separate chair line in one or two years’ time.”